Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the weekly column in which I offer advice no one asked for to people who have no idea who I am. This week we turn our unwanted advice on the easiest pickings…parents.
Recently, an Arby’s owner got fed up with the number of parents coming in with rambunctious toddlers and letting them run around unsupervised, so he posted a sign warning what would and wouldn’t be tolerated.
“Only well behaved Children who can keep their food on their trays and their bottoms on their seats are welcome. If you can’t do this you will be asked to leave. Thanks.”
A patron complained and the restaurant owner quickly removed the sign. The righteously indignant will find the owner’s “scolding” inappropriate. But those of us who have ever been stuck next to unruly little children in a restaurant or some other public venue know exactly who this person was talking about. Maybe the owner was talking about you. There seems to be some sort of confusion with modern parents as to what the rest of society is supposed to tolerate when it comes to their own children. The fact that this sign ever needed to be written tells me some of you are in need of some unsolicited advice. Luckily, unsolicited advice is what I do best, so here goes:
If you cannot control your children in public, then that means there are some places you simply cannot bring them.
This week’s advice does not apply to the parents of children with some sort of condition or ability that prevents them from interacting in a typical manner with the world around them.
Some of you are raising kids with a vengeance. By that, I mean that you’re raising your kids to prove that you can do it better than your parents. If you come from a broken background that can be a noble effort. But it can also warp one’s sense of discipline. The adult who parents to the idea of being “the best” is often an adult who cannot tolerate the wrath of their own child. Typically “no” is a meaningless word in that kind of household. Too many parents think they’re going to lay off the structure/discipline when their kids are toddlers and then when they get old enough they’ll just “explain” the discipline and their child will just magically understand. They want to be “better” and they think that means being nicer.
The problem with that approach to parenting is that it creates maniac children. It creates children who think they are the center of the universe and those are the children who end up crawling on tables at restaurants and generally being little terrorists in public. Believe it or not, it is possible to have toddlers who can behave themselves for short amounts of time in public. It requires the foundation to be laid at home, but it’s doable. And if it’s not, then you must learn to accept that until they can act properly in public there are just some places you cannot bring them. It’s as simple as that.
Just because you love your kids unconditionally doesn’t mean the rest of us do. You may see them as free-spirited, rambunctious, hyper, or having a lot of “creative energy”. The world sees them as naughty.
Some of y’all got naughty kids. They’re not “energetic”, they’re being naughty. I know you genuinely feel your children are the most adorable, most gorgeous, most interesting children in the world. I feel the same way about mine. I don’t feel that way about yours. Nobody does. When your child is in a restaurant throwing food or running around and climbing on tables without restraint, the people around you aren’t wishing they could have a kid as perfect as yours. They’re wondering how the hell you could be dense enough to unleash your undisciplined child on a group of people who are paying a portion of their hard-earned money to enjoy a nice day/meal out.
You may be saying right now, “Kira, no one can really discipline a toddler. They’re naturally crazy! Am I just supposed to keep them home?” and to that I say…
You don’t need to keep them home from everything, of course. There are places where your energetic angel may simply be merely annoying to other people but otherwise they there’s no reason to worry about taking them there- church, shopping, family events, etc. But at a restaurant or other venue where others are spending their hard-earned money in order for an enjoyable experience? Absolutely. Keep them out if you can’t control them.
No one loves your kids like you do. Also, no one even likes your kids like you do. Don’t make them (and maybe your parenting “style”) the object of public derision just because you find their undisciplined expressions charming. It’s not fair but that’s the way it is.
I didn’t take my toddler daughter to a family restaurant for almost a year because we could only depend on her good behavior through the appetizers. It sucked but public etiquette dictated that I spare my fellow citizens the burden of her toddler energy in places where people expect to be able to enjoy their meals in peace.
Sometimes you just have to take a knee and wait out a certain stage. Don’t worry, you won’t end up with a 12-year-old who climbs on the tables. At some point, no matter what your parenting approach they will figure it out and act accordingly. You’ll enjoy those family restaurants again someday.
In the meantime, spare the rest of us your naughty children. Teach them that they are not entitled to act however they want, wherever they want, whenever they feel like it. You can do that by admitting that not everywhere is meant to accommodate small children and then not taking your children there.
If you can’t keep your kid off the tables at a fast-food restaurant then stay at home and let them climb the tables there. And if that’s something you think you’d never let them do in your house, then you’ve just identified your own problem.